Sunday, August 28, 2016


The Balkans' Calamity Of Leadership

Would the people of the Balkans be better if the "compromised politicians" in their countries stepped to the side
Would the people of the Balkans be better if the "compromised politicians" in their countries stepped to the side
By Nenad Pejic
In the spring of 1991, war was looming in Bosnia. Fighting had already erupted in Croatia. Locals in Sarajevo announced a demonstration against the Yugoslav Army to be held in front of the parliament building. As the program director of Sarajevo TV, I met with protest organizers to discuss covering the event. We agreed on live coverage for one hour (I had to break away to take a live feed of a sporting event in Barcelona).”

But when the cameras went off after an hour, the protesters turned on my television crew. I hurried to the scene to try and protect my journalists, but the angry crowd turned on me as well. A security officer pulled me out of the melee and hustled me into the safety of Prime Minister Jure Pelivan’s office.

Fast forward to this year, December 24. Just three days after Montenegro Prime Minister Milo Djukanovic and his deputy, Svetozar Marovic, resigned, local police arrested the mayor of Budva and 10 other people (including a brother of Marovic’s) on charges of corruption and organized crime. Budva is a pearl of Montenegro’s coast, a town where many wealthy Russians have purchased vacation homes. Both Djukanovic and Marovic have faced corruption accusations over the last decade, but no conclusive proof has emerged.

Earlier this month, on December 15, Swiss investigator Dick Marty announced his findings accusing Kosovo Prime Minister Hashim Thaci of heading an organized crime gang that trafficked in human organs, among other things, following the conflict with the Serbian Army in 1999.

Also this month, on December 10, former Croatian Prime Minister Ivo Sanader was arrested in Austria. He is wanted in Croatia on charges of corruption and organized crime. An Austrian bank has accused him of money laundering.

And last month, former Serbian Prime Minister Vojislav Kostunica was accused of hindering the investigation into the whereabouts of indicted war crimes suspect General Ratko Mladic. Those charges remain at the political level, and no legal case has been opened at this point.

Several cases concerning the misuse of government funds and corruption are pending against the former prime minister of the Bosnian Serb entity of Bosnia-Herzegovina, Milorad Dodik, who is now the entity’s president, in Bosnian courts. The Sarajevo-based Center of Investigative Journalism (CIN) has submitted the results of its investigation into a new government building in Banja Luka. In 2005, Dodik was accused of the misuse of state funds, but a local court in Banja Luka acquitted him.

The CIN has presented findings that former Bosnian Federation Prime Minister Nedzad Brankovic paid $600 for an apartment worth $380,000. A Sarajevo court, however, rejected the charges.

Another former Bosnian Federation prime minister, Edhem Bicackic, and his deputy, Dragan Covic, are currently being investigated for corruption.

Macedonian Prime Minister Nikola Gruevski has not faced any court case, but opposition politicians have charged that his mother – a pensioner with no other known income – has purchased four apartments. He also placed several relatives in the state security agencies, building up a network the opposition has come to call “The Family.”

All of these prime ministers and other officials denounce the charges against them as political. Svetozar Marovic says the arrest of his brother was “politically motivated.” The former Croatian premier says his arrest is a “political witch hunt.” Dodik says those who launched the cases against him are acting “against Serbs.” Thaci says the Marty investigation is an assault on Kosovo’s interests. And so on, and so on.

As you can see, the cases demonstrate a pattern of crime and corruption at the highest levels across the Balkans. It is clear that in case after case, law enforcement agencies have not been fighting organized crime in the region, but have been in league with it. Crime networks seem to have been protected by governments and prime ministers throughout the region.

These corrupt elites tend to keep their ill-gotten fortunes in foreign banks. As a result, investment in their countries is minimal. State coffers are drained. There is almost nothing to steal anymore.

One possible solution for these countries is EU membership, where stricter rules might help turn back the tide of corruption. But the EU cannot afford the luxury of accepting “sick” countries in order to heal them. The lessons of Romania and Bulgaria have been well learned in Brussels – and the Balkan countries will have to pay the price.

These compromised politicians could do their countries a big favor by leaving political life, sending a message to the EU that the leaders in the Balkans are mature enough to put the interests of their countries ahead of their own political interests.

When I was taking shelter in Bosnian Prime Minister Jure Pelivan’s office back in 1991, I had a chance to speak with him. He told me that he could no longer control the situation in Bosnia. He was powerless. A few months later, he stepped down and retired. Today, he lives peacefully. When he reads the news from across the Balkans, I have no doubt he considers his decision to step down one of the wisest of his life.

Nenad Pejic is an associate director of broadcasting at RFE/RL. The views expressed in this commentary are the author's own and do not necessarily reflect those of RFE/RL
This forum has been closed.
Comment Sorting
by: Dragana from: Sarajevo
December 29, 2010 14:58
It appears that many were barking at the wrong tree back in the 1990's. It was convenient and trendy to blame the JNA and the federal government for corruption, oppression, lack of freedom or religious rights, economy, etc. Back then, it was the Serbs (and Milosevic) who were blamed pretty much for everything that went bad. It was the Serbs' aspiration to rule, to expand and to oppress others that was viewed as a cancer and needed to be get rid off. Well, it appears that the cancer has spread. Only this cancer has more diverse cell structure.
In Response

by: Abdulmajid
December 29, 2010 21:05
But you yourself concede the Serbs' aspiration to rule, to expand and to oppress others...
Bosnia's independence is a reality which can't be reversed nor undone, and I think that also its unnatural partition that was not a result of "centuries old ethnic hate" but of premeditated aggression and genocide will be overcome someday. Now of course the Bosnian state has to be there for its citizens, and all of its citizens. Of course the cancer has spread. Because of the half-hearted way the Bosnian war was resolved. Because the aggressor was served all he wanted on a silver platter.
And what will the serbofascists say? That I spread hatred of Serbs. Bah, who would want to share this Earth with such people anyway?

by: Max Crittenden from: Zenica, Bosnia I Herzegov
December 29, 2010 16:08
I have waited for years to see enlightened leadership emerge in the Balkins. Leaders that put the welfare of the people above their own selfish aims. Are there any such leaders?
In Response

by: Abdulmajid
December 29, 2010 21:09
Well, after 45 years of communist rule, of a system where you could only survive by lying, cheating, stealing and deceit, where you could not trust your friends, parents, chirdren or relatives, what do you expect? Maybe the younger generations will, when they see that ultranationalism and chauvinism which followed communism in so many countries and especially bad in Bosnia, haven't brought them anywhere.
In Response

by: Abdulmajid
January 03, 2011 16:11
Dear Max, there are some hopeful leaders around. For me, Ivo Josipovic is surely a better and more decent leader than Sanader not to mention Tudjman; and Boris Tadic looks certainly more sympathetic to me than Kostunica let alone Milosevic. Bakir Izetbegovic seems also to me to be more tactful and disposed to seek reconciliation tnan his predecessor. And there is the major of Foca, Zdravko Krsmanovic who seems moved by a genuine desire of reconciliation with Bosniaks. Whether that will be enough remaions to be seen. Unfortunately, as long as there are such elements like that guy from Laktasi (you know which one I mean) who is nothing but Karadzic by other means; as long as all the little Karadzics out there are allowed to continue their Bosniak-bashing and crude anti-Muslim jingoism; as long as the Milan Lukics and "Skorpioni" remain free and can continue to mock their victims it will be an uphill battle. Even though I am convinced the fascists will lose eventually, as before.

by: Mark
December 30, 2010 00:09
Corruption is but one of the legacy issues of Communist rule. The mechanism of kleptocracy with its pattern of patronage was one of the means Communist ruling class exercised control. Unfortunately once the rot sets in, the path to 'virtue' is a very difficult one.

I see part of the solution is resurgence of faith to teach people right from wrong and to inculcate virtues as habit, in the Aristolean and later Thomistic tradition. However the aggressive aetheism in the West means greater reliance of the obtuse tool of the legal system and welfare state.

Looks like the dismembering of Austria-Hunagary qua Mittel Europa post WW1 was an historic error.
In Response

by: Weatherman from: Zagreb
December 30, 2010 10:38
The most corrupt ones were the same ones that were working on resurgence of faith, like Mr. Ivo Sanader. The faith in the Balkans is today as untrusted as nationalism, democracy, the West or anything. What is coming is a Putinesque clean up by secret services not involved in previous bouts of corruption.

by: Sergey from: Suburban Chicago, US
December 30, 2010 12:30
I think that the future of fmr. Yugoslavia lies in some form of reintegration under responsible leadership that is neither Islamist, nor radical Nationalist with either Orthodox or Catholic flavor. The key thing is to find this right leadership. EU is certainly NOT a good mechanism for fmr. Yugoslavian reintegration. It's a bunch of self-serving bureaucrats who care first and foremost about expanding their power (and money that comes along with it).

Even though I am an American, I doubt that US government can provide a good leadership too because of the Clinton and Bush policies of simply siding against Milosevic Serbia rather than looking at a broad picture of dangers that reemerged in the Balkans since 1990's, including Islamic expansionism, Croatian "Catholic" radical nationalism that resembles in some ways Croatian WWII Nazism. Milosevic Serbian regime was certainly nasty and brutal, but Milosevic is definitely not the only guilty party in the tragedy that befell former Yugoslavia less than a decade sinc Joseph Broz Tito death.

However, let's not be too pessimistic either. I think that individual EU countries (rather than massive EUrocracy) can play a positive role IF THEY CHOOSE too.

For example, Austria may seek much closer integration with Slovenia and Croatia and Hungary--recreating a sort of pre WWI Austro-Hungarian empire but without Emperor and with some sort of collaborative parliament, joint military units and so on.

Greece, Bulgaria, Serbia, Montenegro, Romania and Macedonia can also form some sort of Orthodox Balkan Union--kind of Byzantian Empire but also without emperor and all the nasty things that were in the old Byzantian empire (intrigues, massive and abusive bureaucracy, absolute emperor power, mystification and sacralization of the Imperial rule and so on).

I think Bosnia and the rest of Europe will be better off if Bosnia joins traditionally Catholic Austria-Hungary-Slovenia-Croatia commonwealth, but Bosnian Serb Republic can receive a special status and be under joint administration of new Austria Hungary and Greco-Serbia-Bulgaria-Romania-Macedonia-Montenegro. Kosovo can also be jointly administered by Albania and new Byzantian commonwealth.

Even better, ideally all Balkan states (Slovenia, Croatia, Bosnia, Serbia, Kosovo, Macedonia, Montenegro, Austria, Hungary, Romania and perhaps Moldova, Bulgaria, Albania) can form a joint Christian Balkan Commonwealth with broad autonomy for each member but at the same time, some basic rules and standards of behavior toward one another, joint military and police and, joint political institutions and so on.

Let's replace old Yugoslavia with Balkan Christian Confederation !
In Response

by: doctorofmud from: Texas
December 30, 2010 23:50
I do not think removal of Moslims is the answer. They are just people too, who want to raise thier family, live and work in thier home town just like anyone else. I think the problem lies with greed in the government and corruption. There needs to be a way to remove those that do not conform with the law and reward those that do. One way to reward those and recognized them for true patriots of thier home country would be to build a "Hall of Honor", a place where government workers are chosen from say 20 nominees per year, then have a committee of say 4 representatives from each of the three sectors of the country vote on these nominees and then have 3 of the highest of all votes go to the Hall of Honor and be there in bust and portraits with brass wall plaques stating the accomplishments of each.
This hall would be a tourist attraction for all citizens and tourist to go see, and would honor the inductees for centuries after they are gone. Perhaps it is time to show those that are good in government and believe in thier country that the people of Bosnia are proud and ready to step up and show the world who they really are.
In Response

by: J from: US
January 01, 2011 22:56
Hey, that's definitely going to happen! "rules and standards of behavior"... Funny guy
In Response

by: Abdulmajid
January 03, 2011 16:21
How delusional.
And what do you propose top do with the Balkan Muslims? Convert them to Christianity by force? Put them in a reservation? Expel them to the Middle East? Kill them all? In short, succeed at what Milosevic has failed to achieve? Do tell. And the Christain peoples of teh Balkans have historically always fought fiercely against each other. Doctorofmud has already expleined to you that the Balkan Muslims are just human beings too, but from your previous statements I know that to you only a dead Muslim is a good Muslim . But please, feel fr5ee to continue to hate us. Throw all your venom and diatribe at us. The more you do teh stronger we will become and you will only achieve that I will genunely hate you and peopel liek you; and if you should feel you must back your words wioth deeds then I hope you will be placed before a war crimes tribunal someday.
And don't you dare call me a traitor you...
In Response

by: Dragan from: Toronto, Canada
January 15, 2011 01:15

You said you want "leadership that is neither Islamist, nor radical Nationalist with either Orthodox or Catholic flavor", but then you suggest Orthodox, Catholic and Moslem Unions. EU is a better idea. It is far from perfect, but it is probably the best thing so-called "western democracies" have done in 200 years. It avoids future large wars in Europe.
In Response

by: Abdulmajid
January 15, 2011 18:50
Yes, that's the biggest merit of the EU. Many people complain about it being ineffectual, bureaucratic, overbearing, too expensive, and bad-mouth it. But the EU has helped keep peace in Europe. Hopefully that peace will last. Hopefully it will help to achieve, over time, peace and reconciliation in the Western Balkans too. (all those who still think Serbia doesn't need the EU because it has Russia to help it achieve its unrealistic Greater Serb objectives should ask themselves if the ordinary Serb citizens got anything from Russia) It is of course up to the peoples of the region themselves to find peace and reconciliation; here the EU can only encourage and suggest, not impose. But it can give the example.

by: Annabella from: Brussels
January 05, 2011 17:31
Despite being a Christian myself, I find the idea of a Balkan Christian Confederation unacceptable. We must not look at denominations, but whether individuals and nations subscribe to the same values and principles. Albania and Bosnia, but also Turkey, deserve to join the EU, though it is currently a predominantly "Christian club", once they meet all conditions of entry. Regarding corrupt leaders - they are a reality, but many of today's demoracies were not fundamentally different 100 years ago. In the Balkans, it takes time to overcome the legacies of communism and war. From the list that Abdulmajid posted, one can see improvements. Sanader was more "enlightened" than Tudjman, and Josipovic is more enlightened than Sanader. Tadic in Serbia is better than Kostunica who was better than Milosevic... etc.

by: reality vs fiction from: The Western Balkans
January 06, 2011 07:05
The time has come to close this failed Western experiment called Bosnia. Let's close this chapter peacefully and move on.
In Response

by: Abdulmajid
January 07, 2011 22:00
Yeah, let's close that failed attempt at appeasement of Milosevic called Dayton Bosnia. Let's abolish this genocidal racist fascist abomination called "repluka srpska and turn Bosnia into a normal country. Most people would not disapprove of it, even among the Bosnian Serbs because ultranationalism and Greater Serb chauvinism hasn't brough tthem anywhere and can't feed them; it is only genocidals and fascists who through fear-mongering are keeping them in line. Or are you suggesting Bosniaks are good only to be trampled on and kept on their knees on grounds thatthey are Muslims? and let all those who still have a hate of tehir country, Bosnia-herzegovina, leave it. And don't you dare cry "genocide!!"